Monday, January 31, 2011


Last post, I told you about my first mistake. I flew through revisions and eagerly sent out what I thought was the greatest query in the world. Sending out that query was my second mistake. I was wrong to send it. The query was terrible and way too long. At over 500-words, it was more like a synopsis than a query. Since then, I've learned to pare down my queries to a mere 250-words or less. Also, the query should be written like a formal business letter. This lets the agent know that you take your writing serious--like your own business.

First off, you might want to personalize your query by starting off with an introduction paragraph. One that says I met you at this conference, or I follow your blog and noticed you were looking for radioactive zombie vampires or something.

Your query should start off with a hook. Make sure this paragraph grabs the agent. Don't use questions or try to be all flowery. Agents want to know who your protagonist is and what happens to her. As in my first paragraph for my novel LIBRARY JUMPERS, which I'm currently querying as follows:

Seventeen-year-old Gia Kearns would rather spar with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather-clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum library, busts her staring at him while she's studying with her friends. 

The next one or two paragraphs should expand on the first paragraph and reveal the plot without telling the ending of your story. As in my query:

When he suddenly disappears, Gia swipes the book of world libraries he abandoned. As she skims the pages, she unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his fellow Paladijns--magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books--rescue the three from a demonic hound.

Gia learns she's a missing Paladijn and now that she's been found, must train with an eccentric father she never knew existed. Gia and Arik commence a heated relationship as they jump into some of the world's most beautiful libraries and travel to the Mistyk world hidden behind bookcases to stop an apocalyptic force from destroying both worlds. If fighting unfathomable creatures weren't bad enough, Arik's French vixen of an ex-girlfriend is hell-bent on keeping Arik and Gia apart.  

If you have any publishing credits or belong to a writing group or have any degrees you'd put that next. I don't have publishing credits, so I  don't add this paragraph. Instead I end with stating my word count and thanking the agent for their time, like this...

Combining elements of fantasy and romance, LIBRARY JUMPERS, a young adult urban fantasy is complete at 87,000 words. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Brenda Drake

The query for LIBRARY JUMPERS is 218 words, which leaves me room to add personalization at the beginning if I want. Don't use your publishing and closing paragraphs to tell the agent that you'd be happy to send pages, they know that's what you want. Also, don't talk about future books in the series or other novels you've written and haven't published. Don't mention self-published works. And by all means, turn off the return receipt on your email and don't send status checks daily for your queries. Just hit send and move on to the next. If an agent is interested, they'll contact you.

It doesn't end at writing the query. Now you must get fellow readers to read it and chime in. If you have betas or critique partners you're all set. Ask them their opinions and make changes accordingly. If you don't have betas or critiques, I suggest posting your query on the QueryTracker forum for review. That's what I did when I started out, and I received some valuable critiques on my work. I learned a lot from the posters there and was able to get my terrible query to shine.

Make sure you listen to all the comments you get on your query and revise it several times. Don't get hurt if someone says it's crappy (probably not in those words). You want honesty. Without it your query, synopsis, novel, or whatever won't get better. You'll be stuck with this query that doesn't work and the rejections will come pouring into your email's inbox. I know. It happened to me.

Well, that's it until next time. Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Your query sounds great! Thanks for the tips :)

  2. Great stuff, Brenda! I love your query ;o) Great advice! I'll have to keep this post in mind when I start to query!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks, Kerri and Erica, it took several revisions to get it that way. I hope it helps. Good luck with your querying! :D

  4. Great post Brenda! I'll agree with you about the 'I wrote what I thought was a rocking query, sent it out etc.' I think that is true for most writers right out the gate. Live and learn, get some AMAZING, FANTASTIC, HONEST critique partners and bounce it off them first. I have the best crit partners in the world. And they've helped me hone my query to what it is today. Love you guys!

  5. Love your query, Brenda! Queries are hard for me. Thanks for the great advice! :)